The Question of Rikers Island

Rikers Island is New York City’s main jail complex. Located in the East River and isolated from the rest of the city, Rikers has been historically known for corruption, inhumane conditions, and violence that affects not only the inmates but also the correction officers. On any given day, nearly 9,000 New Yorkers are jailed on Rikers, three out of four of them awaiting trial, charged but not convicted, and, in most cases, detained at Rikers because they cannot afford cash bail. More than 40 percent of these inmates suffer from mental health issues and almost 90 percent are people of color.

In 2017, the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, also known as the Lippman Commission, issued a report calling on the city to close Rikers. The initial and a subsequent report described Rikers as a “penal colony” and “irredeemable.” The city has suggested a ten-year timeline for closing Rikers, but that is far too long, and even that timeline is not guaranteed.

Community leaders and advocates have a strong role to play in the weeks and months ahead. Policies and reforms that will speed the closing of Rikers are being debated, and your voice is needed.


Take Action

Community Hearings on Rikers

In September and October, the City will begin holding community hearings on its proposal to close Rikers and move to a system of borough-based jails. Your public comment is important. Attend the following community hearings and raise your voice for the need to #CloseRikers.

September 20, 2018, 6pm | Brooklyn

P.S. 133 William A. Butler School
610 Baltic Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217

September 26, 2018, 6pm | Queens

Queens Borough Hall
120-55 Queens Boulevard, Kew Gardens, NY 11424

September 27, 2018, 6pm | Manhattan

Manhattan Municipal Building
1 Centre Street, New York, NY 10007

October 3, 2018, 6pm | Bronx

Bronx County Courthouse
851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451

You may also submit written comments to, or by mail to Howard Fiedler at 75-20 Astoria Boulevard, Suite 160, East Elmhurst, NY 11370.


Additional Information

For more information, or to request printed materials about closing Rikers, email

Cash Bail and Rikers Island Jail

Trinity Church Wall Street recently hosted faith groups committed to closing Rikers Island Jail, a goal that can’t be accomplished until the jail’s population, 78 percent of whom are accused but not convicted, is significantly reduced. One reason so many people remain in Rikers so long is because they cannot afford the cost of cash bail, one of many subjects retired Judge Jonathan Lippman and the Rev. Winnie Varghese of Trinity discussed in a wide-ranging video interview about Rikers.

Faith Communities and the Effort to Close Rikers Island Jail

Trinity Church Wall Street on April 17 hosted a breakfast meeting at St. Paul’s Chapel to bring faith communities together with leaders of the movement to close New York City’s Rikers Island Jail.

Discussing Rikers Island Jail

Trinity Church Wall Street on April 17 hosted a breakfast meeting at St. Paul’s Chapel for leaders of New York City’s faith communities on the subject of Rikers Island Jail.